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Reports from the public meeting on 26 February 2020 folowing the fire at the Hollingdean Waste Transfer Station on 25th & 26th August 2019.
Notes by Miriam
I went to the community meeting about Veolia meeting last night; here are some headlines of the things that came up from their presentation:
There was a strength of feeling in the room was that, fundamentally, the WTS is not fit for purpose, people did not get what was promised when it was built, and the that it’s a totally unsuitable location for the WTS. The issue of the smell was also raised several times, as was the fact that it’s taken too long to communicate to residents, and that the council are too complacent in proactively dealing with issues before they arise. It was also raised that the smoke was leaving the building through lots of different places, so clearly it’s not a suitable building to contain smelly – and potentially toxic – waste. Pete West made a fantastic speech at the end which got a round of applause from the room. I’ve attached a couple of screenshots from the presentation in the next post.
There were three other Round Hill residents that I know who were there, and may have been others who I don’t know, and quite a few people from Hollingdean, including the resident association secretary and chair, and a number of councillors, plus someone from Caroline Lucas’ office.
Notes by Davy
Platform speakers included Allan Key (General Manager of Veolia) & Steve Usher (Veolia), an East Sussex Fire & Rescue officer, the fire safety and head of operations leads at City Clean, Nick Hibberd (Executive Director of Brighton & Hove City Council) and two other Council officers from Emergency Services and Public Health.
In the audience were 5 councillors and around 30 local residents including reps from the Hollingdean Residents Association and Roundhill Community Society.
Allan Key explained the chronology of the fire itself, the ESFRS guy outlined what they had done, and the Public Health lead from the Council outlined the public health view of the incident. All of them were at pains to point out that everything had been done according to the appropriate regulations – “we were fully compliant”.
The only admissions were:
There were lots of questions and suggestions – notably that the plant install a siren to warn of a fire which would warn residents (apparently this is an EU regulation though Veolia claimed no knowledge of it).
Allan Key outlined the changes Veolia and the Council were making for the future:
In response to questions, Nick Hibberd confirmed that the Council would be reviewing the location of the whole plant “this calendar year” but warned he didn’t want to raise expectations about it being moved. He confirmed residents would be consulted about it. Allan Key confirmed they had capacity to deal with food waste separately at the existing site but added it might not be the best location.
There were a lot of angry comments about the initial location of the plant in Hollingdean against the views of residents (17,000+ people had signed a petition against it) and the broken promises – it would be a world class facility, there would be no smells or increased traffic, and state of the art fire prevention equipment – all of which had palpably proved to be false.
Councillor West also complained that the report on the fire (which most of us present had not seen or ben notified about in advance of the meeting so we could read it !) was very thin - remarkably so given that 6 months had elapsed between the fire and the meeting. He also pointed out that smoke had been seen coming out of the building in various places during the fire, which showed exactly why the smell from the plant so regularly escaped too! Davy suggested that the panel and all the agencies seemed complacent in the face of residents concerns about the smell and the fires (there was a previous one in September 2018). Nick Hibberd and the lead councillor for environment both responded to say they were not complacent.
On reflection, the most disappointing aspect of the meeting was that one word was missing – “sorry”. Veolia, the Council, the fire service – none of them once said sorry. They could have said they were sorry about the constant smell and the fires, for their failures to ensure the fire prevention & suppression systems were good enough, that the communication with residents was so poor, or that they were sorry that the plant had been put there in the first place. But no one did – leaving most of the residents at the meeting all feeling that nothing really had changed.
Fire at Hollingdean Waste Transfer Station
See: Demand for answers after Waste Depot fire
The Argus 6th September 2019.
The fire they're hoping everyone will forget [The Argus 7th Sept 2020]
A second fire in September 2020.
See Fire at Brighton Waste Transfer site reignites neighbours safety concerns [Brighton & Hove News 5th Oct 2021] and
Safety fears after fire at Veolia waste site in Hollingdean [The Argus 6th Oct 2021] for reports of a third fire.